The Ball visits the home of Mathematics

the Ball at the Registan
The Ball at the Registan

The Registan in Samarkhand is where Al Ghorasmi wrote his famous text “Al Jabr”. I feel particularly privileged to have sat where he most probably sat – we now recognise his name as ‘algorithm’ and his book gave us ‘algebra’ – I use these every day of my programming life.

An image of a Buckyball
A Buckyball

The Ball itself is another mathematical object, named much more recently after R. Buckminster Fuller, another scientific visionary – its basic form is called a Fullerine or a Buckyball. In nature this shape occurs as Carbon 60, a molecular-sized football which can bounce even when travelling at half the speed of light. You can read more about it in this article on

Written by on Friday, April 19th, 2002

5 comments on this post

  1. This week’s Sesame Street was brought to you by the letters x and y , and the cube root of 2.

  2. Apparently he spelt his name “al Khwarizmi”, though his full name was the rather less succinct “Abu Abd-Allah ibn Musa al’Khwarizmi”.

    He wrote “al Jabra” (full title “Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala” – try getting that on Amazon) in 830 AD and, funnily enough Tim, its first chapter is about how to solve simple quadratic equations such as x squared = the square root of 2. Cube roots weren’t solved until 1515 though, and that was by an entirely different person.

    At least that’s what I overheard down the pub.

  3. I did try searching on Amazon! Here is what it said:

    “Availability: We are currently unable to offer this title. It may be out of stock with the publisher or out of print.”


  4. In the photo on the music page(if you remember that) why is Richard in a tree wearing an Argentinian shirt?

  5. Rob: Ah, the Statisticians Arms – I love that place. Will you drink a pint of Arctangent for me and toast the Ball… this Kyrgyz beer tastes of, er, 10-10…

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The Ball 2014 left England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.